The Power of Belief

The Power of Belief

Every generation has its beliefs, its built-in assumptions: “The world is flat.” “It’s impossible to fly.” “Electric lights are not worthy of serious consideration.” To harness the energy locked up in matter is impossible.” Even the inventor of wireless telegraphy (the beginnings of radio communications) Guglielmo Marconi’s “friends” had him sent to a mental institution when he described “harnessing the intangible forces of the electromagnetic spectrum.” You catch the wave. Even some of the brightest people I know struggle with the new science, but that’s for another time and place.

These are simple examples, but the list goes on ad nauseam of those who faced ridicule—even death—because of their beliefs. From the complete unknown to Jesus Christ himself, we’ve been killing people through the ages simply because their beliefs don’t match ours. We’re willing to kill the enlightened to protect and maintain our misguided, false, and status quo-beliefs. Terrorism exists because we don’t believe what they believe!

Ultimately, in so many cases of the new and alternative ‘truths’ introduced, our existing beliefs remain so entrenched, so deeply rooted that we’re unwilling to even consider that another concept may have merit. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “We are tattooed in our cradles with the belief of our tribe. They are indelible.” Beliefs routinely persist beyond logic and scientific evidence to the contrary. 

Our beliefs hold power over us because we embrace them as truth. They shape our attitudes which in turn determine how we approach every aspect of our lives and our organizations. Our successes and failures remain buried deep within what we believe to be possible or impossible. 

No one believed the four-minute mile was possible. In fact, physicians believed that the human heart would explode if the possessor were to break the barrier. This belief existed for decades until Roger Bannister shattered that ‘belief’ barrier by .04 of a second. Within three years 17 other runners matched this feat. Today the feat has become routine.

What are your beliefs?  What are your four-minute miles that hold you back? What new beliefs can you develop to propel you to levels of performance you never dreamed? Do your current beliefs serve you or disempower you? Victor Fankl stated in his remarkable book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.” Our beliefs determine our attitudes! So, believe this, the results you get in any aspect of your life or organization begin and end with what you believe. You have the power to change if you truly want to improve your current situation.

Grant Stewart